Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Gorky Park (1983)

Gorky Park (1983): adapted from the Martin Cruz Smith novel by Dennis Potter; directed by Michael Apted; starring William Hurt (Arkady Renko), Lee Marvin (Jack Osborne), Brian Dennehy (William Kirwill), Joanna Pacula (Irina Asanova), Richard Griffiths (Anton), and Ian Bannen (Iamskoy):

A perfectly respectable, big-budget adaptation of Martin Cruz Smith's first novel featuring morose Soviet detective Arkady Renko. William Hurt is physically miscast as Renko, but he does a good job with the pensive, morose part of the character. 

The real problem is that as able a writer as adapter Michael Potter is (he of BBC standouts The Singing Detective and Pennies From Heaven, both made into problematic Hollywood adaptations themselves), he has to either jettison the lengthy descriptions of life in the late-Soviet-era Russia of the novel or use a voice-over. And the film-makers clearly decided against a voice-over. And Gorky Park really needed one. Without it, we're either shown stuff that requires context or told stuff in awkward expository sections. 

Stripped of Cruz's detailed, pungent descriptions of life in late-1970's Moscow, Gorky Park becomes a generic detective thriller with an underwhelming MacGuffin. That MacGuffin was interesting in the novel; here it seems almost perfunctory, as does the identity of the killer. Yes, you will guess the identity of the killer quite easily because he's the most obvious suspect and because there really aren't any other suspects. Oh, well.

This certainly isn't a bad movie. And you do get to see a young Joanna Pacula's boobies and William Hurt's naked ass, depending on what sort of nudity spins your dial. And Brian Dennehy is so much fun as an American cop that he seems to have wandered in accidentally from the set of another, juicier movie. Lightly recommended.

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